Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Test Cricket Losing Crowds in the Sub-Continent?

The first and last test match that I actually watched in a cricket stadium was the famous 3rd Test between India and Steve Waugh's Aussies in 2001 at Chepauk. On the third and the fifth days, the atmosphere was electric and there were crowds even to watch the teams have a light practice session about an hour and a half before the start of play.

Well, the boos that Ganguly received on dropping two (or was it three) consecutive skiers that left the bat of John Wright should be heard to believed. There was that much of a crowd at about 8:00 in the morning. J and another P too can vouch for that, for we were together for those two days of play at Chepauk. The point is, there was a sell-out crowd ready to lap up any action that was dealt out by the Indians and the Aussies and I had, till today, thought that this was the norm. Propping up that opinion was the images and sounds that I remember from the India-Pakistan Tests of 1999 in Calcutta and Chennai (the latter I followed via radio coverage)

But Cricinfo has this Roving Reporter peice from Galle where Murali spun his web around the Aussies on the first day of the first test and Tilakaratne Dilshan had the Aussie bowlers hunting for leather almost all day in the next. But apparently only 1500 people watched the first day's play and the peice makes it sound that test matches in the sub-continent are losing their spectators.

I haven't had the chance to watch that many test matches in India on TV after I came here to the US, but all you guys back home should know. Is that true? Is this the case in India too? I have been wondering why the Indian Board looked at just 3 tests and 7 ODIs (is it 5 now) for the Pakistan tour. I commented to some friends that an addition of an extra test while cutting the ODIs to 5 would probably make the tour much more interesting for the spectators and fill the PCB's coffers. Was I wrong?

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